The clients had lived in the city-centre cottage for 24 years and decided to throw a 25th anniversary party which prompted them to embark on a re-design project for their outside space. They needed to be able to fit in their small car but also wanted a table and chairs to sit outside. They loved the idea of a lush courtyard glimpsed through a gate when passing by, after the fashion of romantic old European cities.
The courtyard was in shade for much of the day, so to offer more light and warmth we chose pale limestone for the hard landscaping, mixing this with colours that echoed some elements of the nearby visible buildings to create a sense of co-ordination with the surroundings. The design was a series of interconnecting circles delineating the space into discrete areas. A grey, metal structure was erected to screen the secluded sunken seating area from the parking space. Its open design and the climbers it supports allow the two spaces to be at once partitioned and combined, so that the parking area can be used for entertaining when desired and light can flow throughout. Maximising the limited space, raised beds and a wooden seat provide discreet integrated storage to keep recycling containers and tools out of sight. Robust planting combined with an irrigation system that can be set high or low depending on the weather make this secluded city hideaway surprisingly low maintenance.
Magnolia grandiflora, having been introduced to Britain in the 18th century, was deemed suitable here to balance the height of the opposing wall and increase privacy, while also linking to planting in the surrounding area. Climbers such as Clematis and Passionflower use the height of the perimeter, and foliage plants such as Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’ provide structure and year-round interest.